matt_doyle: (Default)
 I have a bad case of the Winter Mehs, so I haven't really been feeling like posting lately, but I've just been tagged by my friend and occasional co-conspirator Kat Laurange to do a Next Big Thing blog post.  And really, who am I to resist an invite like that?

So, although I imagine it comes as little or no surprise to those of you who follow my blog, here's a mini-interview-meme-thing about my next big writing project.

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?
The Hellion Prince
2) Where did the idea come from?
Wondering what Harry Potter would look like told from the perspective of Draco Malfoy.  It's gone far afield since then, but that was the starting point.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Dark Fantasy.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I always pictured Damarhis as Alex Band circa 2002, so I’m afraid I don’t have a better image of who could play him now.  Hayden Panettiere or Amanda Seyfried for Chrysinthe.  Jason Isaacs for Damalien.  Corbin Bleu for Belasen.  Tyler Posey or possibly Logan Lerman as Sabric. Someone with bulky shoulders?  Imadria would be almost impossible to cast, but her father Imaric would be Johnny Depp, no questions asked.  The Lord Regent could easily be played by Michael Gambon or Malcolm McDowell  -- someone who can project great chill and also great anger.  The Fool’s voice should be Mark Hamill, Liv Tyler would be perfect for Yvanna the Silent, and the Unfallen King himself... Billy Connolly.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Damarhis was prepared to be a traitor and a spy, but he didn’t expect to make friends by doing it.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’d like it to be repped by an agency, but first I have to finish it and find an agent!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Four years.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 Lies of Locke Lamora, The Briar King, Kushiel’s Scion.  But really if it was too much like anything else I wouldn’t have written it.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?  
Too many people to list, really.  But most briefly -- my wife Megan and my friends and former loves Erin Guthrie and Sarah Whittaker.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
Faeries, spies, dark magic, arranged marriage, swordfights, robberies, sexual tension both resolved and un (mostly un), murder kidnapping treachery the undead politics dances masks horses fancy clothing and tasty food.  if that doesn’t do it, I’m all out.

I don't tend to like tagging people to get them to do memes, but if you're writing something, I'd like to know about it -- so consider yourself tagged and let me know when your post goes up!


Oct. 4th, 2012 04:06 pm
matt_doyle: (philosophy)

A long time ago I made a post about Tarot and how, for the Hellion Prince, I had assembled a slightly changed deck.  Under the cut are my more detailed thoughts on the new trumps; and if you're a Tarot buff or a Hellion Prince reader I'd be happy to hear your thoughts as well, especially on how the changes would change a reading.  I've put all the in-universe details in context, so even if you haven't looked at Hellion Prince it should all make perfect sense to you.  I hope.

Read more... )
matt_doyle: (Default)
So, before I go forward in this explanation, I need to go back.  The following is crunchy with worldbuilding, character backstory, and a recap of a few sessions I didn't describe.
Brokenhills and Blood Magic )
matt_doyle: (Default)
... in The Hellion Prince.  Damarhis needs to have a conversation with a priest about practical theology, and I'm torn between using an existing character (who the audience did not know was a priest) and introducing someone new.  If I introduce someone new, they never get used again.  If I use an existing character, the scene does double duty as foreshadowing and building character interaction... but it also feels awfully damned convenient to have him stumble across a familiar face.  And he *might* be less forthcoming talking to someone he knew, who could assemble the context of the conversation he's trying to obscure.


matt_doyle: (Default)
So last night I dreamed about Norse deities riding flying iceberg, my maternal grandfather hanging out with JRR Tolkien, and parts of The Hellion Prince taking place in Hobbiton.  There was a plot in which a magically caused drought was ruining the land, and in searching for the magic item that was causing it, I passed through set pieces from previous dreams (which have been recurring before):  the gloaming forest of the fey (which is even rather setting-appropriate), and a mountainous, mazy set of plateaus and ridges that I think has been a feature in dreams I forgot to record (or at least, dreams in which I forgot to record that feature).  Those plateaus always show up representing the same sort of thing -- a distant land outside the bounds of civilization.  They are Foreign Country, writ large in dream letters.  I'll try to make a note of it if they show up again. 

I've discussed before how various set pieces recur in my dreams (actually I think I've discussed it in a different post, too, but I cannot find that one), and it always fascinates me how much re-purposing my subconscious does.  Am I on a limited shooting budget or something?
matt_doyle: (Default)
In the kingdom of Antarion, known to the vulgar-minded as The Allotment, in the Barony of Endworld, there is an island that once was called the Marrows, or perhaps (because only a shallow strait separates in from the mainland) the Narrows.  Little more than a rocky promontory, it never held any importance until Narerrant, gens-lord of the Ligurian gens Nar, decided to build himself a second castle there.

Narerrant's family was small and unimportant, as the lineages of mage-lords are counted, but Narerrant himself was a potent sorceror.  His staff, it was said, was so full of spells of wariness, vigilance, and warning that it could sense threats hidden in the hearts of men, and react before its master to defend him.  This was the greatest of his accomplishments, but it was only one of many.  He laid the foundations for his castle himself, a substantial feat of earth-magery, and directed its construction according to strange and exacting standards.  Then, he shut himself in it, and none but his family and his servants saw or heard any trace of him for many months.

Secretly (but not so secretly), Narerrant was a wicked mage.  His powers of command and conjuration, his skill at crafting, all of these he derived by a subtle mastery of necromancy unlike any other magus of his Age.  He knew, of course, that he was an evil soul, and that he had strayed far from the path to apotheosis the Winged Ones dictate -- the path that leads noble souls safely through the Misty Hells and ushers them into Radiant Glory, where they may collect the prayers of their descendants until they join the Winged Ones as one of their number.  The sins that weighed on his soul would draw him astray, lure him into  false paths, mire him, maze him, and lose him forever in the Hells.

As no sane man would wish this, and Narerrant was, perhaps, still sane, he sought a terrible alternative.  Beneath the foundations of his castle -- wrought of Mist-stone, the very substance of the Hells conjured into our world and persuaded to pretend that it was mere rock -- Narerrant built himself a model of Hell.  He summoned and imprisoned demons; he drew Mist through portals, he consulted dark texts and cast sinister spells, until under his home was a very near replica of the Misty Hells.  By studying this model and interrogating its damned inhabitants, Narerrant hoped to gather enough information on the dangers of his passage through the afterlife, so that even without virtue he could dodge the dangers of the Hells after death and worm his way into a reward not intended for souls such as he.

It was a clever plan, and a devious one, and perhaps it would have worked.  But while he spent day after day under the earth, someone in his castle grew nervous.  They had learned that Narerrant could open the Gates of the Hells; they knew he was obsesses with building something, and from this they drew a fearful and misguided conclusion:  that Narerrant was building a door to Hell, one which he intended to throw open once it was complete, and rule all Antarion with powers devised from warlockery and demonology, subjugating the living with minions ripped straight from the torments of the damned and the dead.

When word of this was brought to the Queen, along with some small proofs of necromancy, she wasted no time, but assembled her armies, her pyromancers and storm mages, her artificers with their siege-lightnings and silverbolts.  Straight to the coast of Endworld they rode, and rained devastation over the strait, crashing Narerrant's great castle down upon its foundations in a single blazing hour of spellwork.

Of Narrerant, his underground works, and his staff, no trace was ever found.  It is recounted as a bitter irony that he could have stopped any threat in the world from touching him with his wondrous staff; but he was so concerned with matters of the next world, so immersed in them, that his staff was too distant to sense the oncoming army and give him warning.

Now the island is called Narrer's End, and none live there.

But some two centuries after Narrer's demise, a princess, an apostate, and a renegade band of Royal Guards, concerned more with justice than with law, are seeking the staff once again, and if their luck runs terribly awry, it is possible they may find it.
matt_doyle: (Default)
The basic ruleset I am using for The Broken Road is D & D 3.5, because it is most familiar to me and to the players.  But because the Allotment is focused so heavily on mage-lords, who are obviously spontaneous casters, the world is changed to revolve around them in any number of ways.

Classes I am encouraging aristocratic players to focus on:  bard, sorceror, favored soul, shugenja, artificer, and duskblade.  So far there are no commoner PCs, and I think there are unlikely to be any.  Some mage-lords may have exceptionally weak magic:  these would likely take non-casting classes but take a few of the feats that allow casting of cantrips or low-level spells a limited number of times per day.  A wizard would be someone who has learned the ancient forbidden spellcasting techniques of Septicollum.  A druid would be someone who learned their casting from the fey -- doubly forbidden!Details cut for those who do not care... )

matt_doyle: (philosophy)



So, this fall, after my now-epic-level Eberron game concludes, I'm starting up a new campaign. It's set in the Allotment, because I have had a lot of success before running games in worlds I have written about. On the one hand, the setting gets a lot of passion put into it, a lot of logistical detail that often escapes game settings, because the world-building has already been set up to support a narrative. There seems to be a kind of verisimilitude that players relate to very well. On the other hand, if there are holes in my world-building, a group of four or five dedicated, inquisitive, exploitative characters are almost sure to find them, which is a great help to the writing and to fleshing out odd details and twitches of setting.


The trick, of course, is chronology. When do you set such a game, to be certain that it doesn't interfere with the demands of your story? The two choices are after the novel or novels reach conclusion, and the story is safely finished... or far enough in the past that novel characters are unlikely to think or chat about campaign events, and the weight of history can shove any egregious hero-inspired changes back the way the author wants them.


I tend to choose the latter, both because I am then not left with the feeling that my PCs are fiddling with things just when I got them sorted out, and because it's a more concrete help to world-building to explore the past than it is to explore the future. In this case, my upcoming campaign, The Broken Road, is set two centuries before The Hellion Prince, during the long, prosperous, and decadent reign of a King whose subjects jokingly call him The King of Oats and Honey, for he is a major political force to be reckoned with, as autocratic as the Sun King, but immensely fat in his old age, and has sired children (in Antarion, all magically gifted children are automatically legitimized if their parentage is known) across the kingdom.


The party will be a patrol unit of newly-minted Royal Guardsmen. The Royal Guard is one of the few egalitarian, meritocratic institutions in the nation, permitting enrollment and advancement by both commoners and mage-lords . As the game begins, the party is about to embark on their first Long Circuit patrol, a sink-or-swim tradition that takes them out of the comfortable capital on a nine month tour of Outer Baronies, spreading the uneasy influence of central judicial authority to arbitrate legal problems and catch criminals that the local Barons and Baronesses cannot handle.


Given that The Hellion Prince is an England-analog with a roughly early-Georgian society (or if you prefer, since I always joke about it being a “regency romance,” Regence France), rolling it back 200 years gives me the England of Shakespeare and Queen Eilzabeth to work with, which pleases me to no end. One of the most important things for me in the Allotment is to have proportional world-building when it comes to my history – if the Allotment was settled 800 years before Hellion Prince by what were essentially exiled Roman rebels with sorcery, the society at time of settlement should resemble 1000 AD European cultures, and their development should have rational reasons for running along vaguely parallel lines and giving me an 18th-century Britain-doppleganger to work with. Obviously some handwaving is required, but I prefer to actually patch my history together as plausibly as I can, piece by piece, and so it will be interesting to explore the happenings of “The Elizabethan Allotment,” since that's a period of British history that interests me greatly. I'm not sure that I can get my players to declaim their dialogue in Shakespearean blank verse, but I can certainly dress them in period fashions and draw in tropes and situations from Elizabethan romance and drama, and I intend to.


Generally, though, this campaign is an attempt for me to take what I have learned about running a game, and apply it in new ways – hopefully both telling a more organic, character-driven story, and allowing me to learn something new. While I have a very vague outline, I do not yet have anything resembling a full plot for this game – nor do I want one before my four players have created their characters and back-stories, a process which we will all do together, exploring their psychology, their motivation, how and why they will mesh as a team, and making certain they have fully realized 'lives' outside the demands of plot. The Allotment setting has a lot of potential darkness and horror that I want to exploit, and to do that I want a party who values role-playing above expedient, mechanical triumphs, and who can act as a support system when other characters are dealt serious emotional wounds. I also want to know what the players most want out of a game, so that I have a better chance of delivering it to them. Politics or action? Crime-busting or creature-slaying? Faeries or Unfallen? Not that the options are binary by any means, but the more I know their goals and their kinks, the deeper I can draw them in, the more thoroughly I can satisfy them.


Originally I was also planning a lot of blather about the technical tomfoolery necessary to make third-ed D & D mechanics adapt themselves to the demands of the world, but I figured that post was more likely to bore my readership, so unless someone expresses an interest, consider it omitted. 

For that matter, is this game in general, as my players create their alter egos and as the story unfolds, something people would want to hear more about?

As always, I'm eager to hear from you.

matt_doyle: (Default)
While I have a map I sketched in pencil ages ago, recently Megan drew up a couple basic maps of the Kingdom of Antarion, known as The Allotment, the primary setting of The Hellion Prince, and it just now occurred to me that readers might like to see them, especially as it's a bit of a geographical curiosity to have a perfectly square country  128 miles on a side with perfectly square subdivisions.

Take a look... )
Any questions about geography, history, or what happens where? 

matt_doyle: (writing)
So, mostly as a joke, I started assembling a short playlist of the music I listened to while writing the masquerade ball in Chapter Twelve.  Mostly, it was mood music, and all of the music videos contain either people in masks or people in vaguely appropriate period clothing, or both.  But as I assembled this list, I realized that if I put it in a specific order, and I squinted and analyzed lyrics out of context in unorthodox ways, it actually fits pretty well as a soundtrack to the chapter's events.

So, here it is, complete with youtube links:

5 tracks )
matt_doyle: (Default)
Work on Chapter Eleven is going sort of okay.  But when I looked at the bit of worldbuilding geekery I did yesterday, I knew I had to share it. 

In Chapter Eleven, there is a card game, called Liar's Ecarte.  It is, basically, a variant of poker, and therefore easier for me to describe than  the other Allotment card game, Float-Hand Ruff, which is Euchre meets contract bridge with a little telekinesis on the side, some wild cards, and a hand that plays itself, sort of.

There is, however, one very important distinction to be made about any Allotment card game, and that is, of course, that they are played using Tarot cards.  Not an original idea, I know, but it's something that I have fun with, so I'm going to put it in there.  And also obviously, the presence of the Major Arcana in a poker game shifts the rules somewhat.  All that is explained in the Chapter, and so I'm going to leave it for the Chapter to discuss, but while I was working out the rules and the hands played in the game, I came to my geeky worldbuilding realization:

I had to redesign the Major Arcana.  The world of the Allotment being what it is, some religious references had to be changed, and the connotations of a few cards were very different -- The Magician and The Fool being the two obvious ones.  So, below the cut, I have presented without comment the Major Arcana (or, as they're called in the Allotment, the Elder Cards) from the deck. 


Here they are. )

I did a lot of wiki research, looking at real-life historical variants on the deck -- Aleister Crowley's deck and a medieval French variant were especially helpful, but I also fully admit I just made some stuff up when that seemed the best course of action.

If any Tarot buffs have been reading The Hellion Prince and would be interested in helping me write up descriptions or commentary, or just want to discuss in the comments, that would be truly fantastic.

And if anyone cares to help me with the headache of figuring out how or even whether I should attempt to adapt chess for the setting, that would be eternally appreciated.

matt_doyle: (writing)

This soundtrack, while it's one that people have inquired about, is a little awkward for me to discuss. I'm only about a third of the way through The Hellion Prince, and while I know what comes next, the vast majority of you do not (exceptions being [ profile] celebros , [ profile] elf_amazon , and to some extent [ profile] handgun  & [ profile] lesyeuxouverts ).


That means that I can share this list with you, and even highlight meaningful lyrics, but in more than a few instances I can't really talk about why these songs are meaningful to me and to the story. Initially, I tried to put these songs in an order that was more or less chronological, based on what in the novel they related to, but the result was... really revealing, and so the order now is mostly the order in which they got added to the playlist. You're free to speculate, however, and there will be no explicit, specific spoilers, save for what Chekov's Gun would already have indicated. So. This should be interesting...



34 songs )

It still feels to me like something is missing from this list, though -- if anyone has any suggestions about other songs that might fit, I'd be delighted to hear them.

matt_doyle: (Default)
(two posts today, since I missed yesterday)

The failed revolution that lead to the settlement of the Allotment might have been genuinely motivated by idealism - certainly, that's the way the mage-lords teach it to their children. It is more probable, however, that it was a calculated grab for power.

The empire of Septicollum, like the kingdom of Antarion, was a magocracy. Unlike Antarion, however, it had no hereditary noble class in the empire proper. It was, instead, a meritocracy, with those most powerful and subtle in their understanding of magic ruling over the assorted provinces and conquests of the empire.

Though the mage-lords of Antarion are loath to admit it, there are two ways in which one can master magic. One is to be born with a strong magical gift - to let one's will and personality shape that inherent power.

The other is study. Hard study, to be sure - a decade at least for even the simplest of spells, and a lifetime to achieve true mastery. But anyone with sufficient discipline could take up this study. And in Septicollum, this was encouraged - there were great collegia devoted to it, and special grants and dispensation so that even the humblest, poorest peasant might (in forty or fifty years) become a mage-lord.

Many of the empire's early conquests, who held a more feudal system, took a very dark view of this. To escalate a peasant above someone of noble lineage seemed madness, no matter that it rarely happened. And that their gift, their birthright, the very power that made them noble and set them apart could be so democratically distributed seemed demeaning to them.

Two provinces on opposite ends of the kingdom rose in revolt- Tur and Liguria. The mage-lords of Tur had begun their empire at sea, little more than pirate-lords who could command the winds - but their gift for weather-working made them greatly in demand by the Empire, and their service was compelled through coercion and graft, which they greatly resented, as it took them away from the lush, luxurious peninsula upon which they had built their castles. While the Turans had no wish for their subjects to gain enough magic to rule them, the pirate-won opulence of Tur meant that the common folk had been well-rewarded for their service when Tur was independent, and it was not hard to convince them that a revolution would bring back those rich and glorious times.

The Ligurians, on an outlying island far to the north, were in a different position. Isolationists and traditionalists who practiced ancestor-worship, the system of dominance established by their mage-lords was deeply ingrained in the people there, and so far from the Empire's center, the egalitarianism the law insisted on was seldom enforced. The Ligurian people were taught to believe that studied magery was an abomination, a collection of dark and sinister arts. The commonfolk joined their masters believing that this was was righteous, that it would see the mage-blooded elevated to their deserved position at the head of the Empire, and restore the practices and laws that they believed in.

Despite the ugliness of fighting a two-front war, the Empire put the rebellion down brutally. They had no standing army, no conscripted levies, and used little of the loyal provincial militias. What they had was the scholarly, disciplined study of magic that the hereditary mage-lords so scorned. While the Turans and Ligurians had more raw magical power, it was undirected. Their own predilections and gifts dictated their strategies - the Septicollian wizards, on the other hand, could watch, and prepare, and strike back against the weak spots the rebels demonstrated with precise and exacting force.

Only one thing saved the failed revolutionaries from mass executions - the worry that their provinces would never be pacified unless mercy was shown. Both provinces were naval powers; therefore, their ships were stripped of weaponry, provisioned, and some twelve thousand surviving rebels - a full quarter of them aristocrats - were set out upon the Eastern Sea. It was a three thousand mile voyage, they were told, to another continent, devoid of human life- a place that had been seen in the scrying-glasses of the most powerful magi, but nowhere else. They could establish their own kingdom there, and rule it as they liked. If there were others who followed their ideals and wished to join them, colony ships would follow as soon as they were built.

By the time the exiles made landfall, one-third of their ships had been sunk by storms, or lost along the voyage in other ways. Some few had turned back along the way, hoping to find an isolated port in Septicollum where they could slink in to hide - those ships had been destroyed by fire raining from clear skies. Speticollum was still watching.

If any further colony ships were sent after that first wave, they never found their way to the shores of the Allotment.
matt_doyle: (Default)
(Very probably boring)

The mage-lords of the Allotment (or, as it is formally known, the Kingdom of Antarion) realized very early on that a growing noble class on a fixed parcel of land would encounter political tension above and beyond the usual. The division of land, therefore, was a matter or very keen concern.

Firstly, the kingdom was divided into sixty-four Baronies, each a square with sides sixteen miles long. As some of these squares consisted of far more water than land, the solution was not perfectly equitable, but it sufficed. In the four outer Duchies- Sunfall, Coldreach, Woodsedge, and Southcrest- there were fifteen Baronies each, and every three Baronies formed a County. In Heartscore, the central Duchy, there were four Baronies, each its own County- an arrangement no-one objected to, as the reduction in land was matched by an elevated importance - Heartscore held the Royal Palace, the House of Lords, and was the cross-roads for all trade in the Kingdom.

A series of compromises handed down allowed for each Barony to be further subdivided into four Baronetcies, if the Baron so wished, but the grant of a Baronetcy was not an inheritable title- on the holder's death, the land reverted to the Barony. Baronetcies were the province of dissatisfied younger children, or untitled political allies.

Inheritance was a very closely regulated matter. Any one noble family could hold only one title, from Baronetcy to Duchy - upon marriage between noble lines, one of the two families formally disinherited their child, so that there was no way to be heir to more than one parcel of land. While every liege controlled taxes and legal arbitration within their land, and held certain other prerogatives ensuring a Duke was a far grander position than a Count, and a Count than a Baron, every titled lord or lady held one equal seat in Parliament. Should a lord be unable to travel to Heartscore when Parliament was in session, they or their liege-lord could appoint a voting proxy. In the unlikely event that a family produced or named no heirs, and a title fell vacant, the King or Queen had dispensation to grant it where they would.

Mage-lords were required to demonstrate an aptitude for magic before their eighteenth birthday; or be disinherited - though it was common for the prouder families to disinherit at fourteen or fifteen, as a means of saving face. Any child of common birth who demonstrated a spark of magical talent was, by law, adopted into the household of a local lord, and their parents handsomely compensated.

...Man, is it going to be difficult to exposit this in the book a piece at a time, without lecturing.
matt_doyle: (Default)
Over the space of the next three centuries, there were two more famous crossings of the Wall - each a century apart, so that the horror of the last had time to face from memory before anyone would be so foolhardy again.

The first was a lady named Yvanna, daughter to the Duke of Coldreach. Yvanna was vain, and ambitious to prove herself. She had convinced a portion of the Houes of Lords to treason, sending an army across the wall – not because she believed in the Unfallen King's cause, but to test herself, and her powers of persuasion. She knew that they would die, but believed that it was the army's commander on whom the fey's wrath would fall.

After the army died, the fey rode the Wild Hunt across the Wall and came for her. All those who stood in their way were stricken with curses of madness and flesh-twisting. On Yvanna, they bestowed immortality; the power of their curses, and one more thing – her heart's desire. It was her wish, they said, that she be remembered whenever she spoke. They sealed her mouth, and granted her the power to heal all wounds.

The last of the Lords to invade Faerie was the least cautious and least powerful of them all. He had no thirst for glory, no desire for conquest. He simply wished to test a theory. It struck him as remarkable that every offender the fey wished to punish, they made immortal - and to him, that seemed compensation enough for any curse that might be laid upon him. Wishing for nothing more or less than the slaughter of his forces and the fey punishment to be laid upon his head, he crossed the Wall with a hundred men.

His theory, after a fashion, was correct. The fey laid a curse upon him, marking him as one of the Unfallen - but in spirit alone. He would live forever, his soul jumping to inhabit and animate the nearest corpse. Through the wonders of fey magic, he could command it while it lasted... could feel it decomposing, so long as it still had nerves... and when it deteriorated too far, he would wake in the nearest fresh corpse, and the process would begin all over again.

His name has been forgotten. Now, he is known only as the Fool.
matt_doyle: (Default)
Besides Melcasarile, now known as the Unfallen King, there are three other tales of people surviving - in a sense, at least - their crossing of the wall.  Two of the three are mage-lords, and came much later, but the first was a commoner, less than a decade after Melcasarile's army was slain.

His name was Marsegel, and in the failed revolution that had sent them here, he had been a troop captain and a recruiter.   He did not for a moment believe in the cause of the mage-lords, but he did believe that by serving them, he could make his life and that of his family better.  He wanted not only to bring them wealth and comfort, but a legacy - to make their names worthy of remembrance, despite their common stock.  Perhaps, if the revolution had succeeded, that would have been true.

Here in the Allotment, however, it was swiftly evident to him that those not of noble birth would lead even harder and less privileged lives than in the country they'd been cast out of.  And here, with their borders so eeerily inviolate, there was no need for an aging armsman - no place for his skills in service to any lord.

Again in the name of granting a better chance to his family, Marsegel became a bandit.  For years he preyed upon young, unimportant lordlings who made their homes close to the Wall, disguising his attacks as fairy raids, disturbing the fragile peace between one side of the Wall and the other.  When at last he was discovered, and the mage-lords were riding after him, Marsegel decided to take his band out in one last attempt at glory.

Very carefully, he brought down a small section of the Wall, and then he lured his pursuers across the border.

The fey indulged him - slaughtering both bandits and lordlings to a man, save Marsegel himself.  Him, they brought back across the all, into the Allotment, and made him watch, as in a mockery of one of his bandit raids, they slew every member of his family, no matter how remote the relation. 

Then, they told him, they would grant his wish.  They would make his name, his legacy, into something that would matter to the lords of the Allotment.

As with the Unfallen King, they made him immortal - stealing the life from his flesh to replace it with magic, cursing him so that he must drain the life of others, or go mad.  Then they set him a task:  to find those who trespassed - not across the Wall, or not only those, but to find any who went where they should not go, and punish them.  Thus, the man who had spent years as a bandit found himself feeding off the lives of robbers, and even eight hundred years later, when parents in the Allotment wish to frighten their children, they tell them not to go out after dark, or Marsegel will get thim.

And once they've said it - once they've forbade them - it might even be true.
matt_doyle: (Default)
The Allotment - the grant of land ceded by The King of Oak and Holly to Queen Majtalona and her heirs as the Kingdom of Antarion - is one hundred and twenty-eight miles on a side. It belongs to humankind and within it, the fey will end no human lives, so long as they stay within its boundaries.

That is why the Wall was built. Not as a defense - for most of its length it runs knee-high, if that. It serves only as a boundary marker, a line defining the edge of the map. In the West, where much of the boundary is ocean, there is a line of buoys set with bells. Technically, it is not the true edge of the kingdom - it was deliberately built several yards inward from the border, so that if it collapsed, or needed to be expanded, there was room to work. Still, crossing it for any purpose but repair is an act of treason, if one is lucky enough to survive until their execution.

Commoners who cross the Wall generally vanish. Sometimes, their families vanish from within the Kingdom as well. The fey, being immortal, have little understanding of the death penalty as a concept. They do kill those who stumble across, but not as a punishment.

Punishment is reserved for those mage-lords who cross. History records only four.

Some short years after the agreement with the fey was concluded, Gens-Lord Melcasarile rose up in rebellion against the Queen. He felt that it was not right for her bloodline and her inferior magic to be set above his own, and that she had conceded to the fey too quickly. For them to grant land, with no concessions or barter, meant that they were weak, or feared war, or were simply, in their inhuman way, pliable enough to be pressed for more.

He rode with an army of three thousand, north across the Wall, to carve out his own kingdom.

Not one of them survived the first hundred yards. The earth itself swallowed them. Horses screamed, reared, and trampled their fallen riders. The branches of trees snaked down and strangled them. Streams overflowed their beds and drowned them. Never once was their a visible enemy to strike at.

When only Melcasarile was left alive, they came for him. They knew why he had come, they told him, and they would be pleased to grant his wish.

First, they made him immortal. Then they took him underground, to a cave within sight of the Wall, just north of the Allotment. That cave - eighty feet by one hundred and sixty feet, fifteen feet in height, some forty feet underground - they gave to him as his kingdom. And then they bound him there with their magic, so that he could never, ever leave.

Eight hundred years later, he is still there. But now, he is not alone.
matt_doyle: (Default)
Up to 12,500 words on the shorter version of the rough draft; and it's progressing very slowly - but I'm also starting to have some success writing in a more linear fashion and expanding on the patchwork of random scenes I had written.

There is still, unfortunately, nothing resembling chapter divisions. Every other time I've tried to write a novel, those have come naturally, determining themselves by pacing. How exactly do you determine where to set chapter divisions if the pacing doesn't lend itself to it automatically? Alternately, uh, what's the maximum length a chapter should be before it collapses under its own weight?

Hm. Have I actually summarized The Hellion Prince here before? I know I posted excerpts back on the old journal, but they seemed to sort of vanish without a splash, possibly because they lacked all explanation.

The Allotment is a magocracy, ruled by powerful families of sorcerers who were exiled from their homeland generations ago after a failed revolution there. Here, they thought, in this new country, they could forge a nation that suited them, where they were in control.

If it hadn't been for the fey, they would have been right. While the King of Oak and Holly ceded a small parcel of land to the mage-lords, a sort of cold war has gone on between them for centuries, and every victory has gone to the fey.

Damarhis is the son of the foremost political manipulator in a nation full of them, and very much eager to assist his father in his machinations. Almost the same age as the kingdom's wild, unpredictable Prince, who is just months from coronation as King, Damarhis is the perfect tool to balance or upset the delicate web of loyalties and treachery in the kingdom. The question is only who will get to use him.

? (summary = very much a work in progress.)
matt_doyle: (philosophy)
((And then restored it from a saved draft.  The original subject line was something like "Slipping this one in just under the wire," but, perhaps appropriately, LJ didn't restore that.))

And I'll admit I'm still not sure what I want to talk about. But it's important to me to just keep putting words on page, habitually, any day, no matter how uninspired I may feel, until it's a permanent, automatic behavior pattern. Or that's the hope.

Sadly, it's not just the blog that's dry and empty right now. My notebooks are also feeling a bit neglected. It's been six months, and I'm still adjusting to the fact that Running In Her Veins is over and done with, and I haven't entirely settled on a single other project. I'm researching a talking-animal story, working title of Cat Among The Rushes, that Megan and I started talking about one night as something to co-write, starting this summer if she has the time. While there are enough cliches in the animal-story genre that I cringe to think of it, some of my favorite books fall under the heading: Watership Down, Redwall (I don't care much for the later Redwall books, but the first few are just so much fun), Book of Night With Moon... and I think we've got an angle on the genre I haven't seen before.  But no actual work has been done on the story yet...

Allegedly, I'm working on The Hellion Prince, first in a trilogy of dark, swashbuckling secondary-world fantasy stories about treachery and politics in a human magocracy surrounded by the fey.  I have over twenty thousand words written, and I confess that I like those words very much, and I have a very clear vision of how this book should go and... it's not working.  Most of the 20k consists of two extended conversations written for backstory purposes, and the not-quite-hero of the tale is limp and uninspiring in all the scenes necessary to the plot.  Something needs to be shaken up about this story and this character, but I'm not sure what.

And then, of course, there's the third book I'm not really working on right now:  A Stain Upon His Hands, the sequel to Running In Her Veins.  I decided to put it off and work on The Hellion Prince because, put simply, I'm not that good yet - I don't have the chops to pull off the book I want Stain (or ASUHH, my usual abbreviation) to be.  I've got the first three pages done, relatively satisfactorily, but as with RIHV, the transitions in between major plot points are still totally obscure to me, and I realized the other day that, when written out, there are 15 discernible story arcs within the novel as outlined.  That's a few too many, I think, but I have absolutely no clue where or how to trim pieces off or divide the sucker into two books.  So...

... like here on the blog, I'm left to meander, and reflect, and peck out a page or two here or there, waiting to see what happens.  I can live with that.

((and LJ ate the line I wrote to conclude this post, too!  OUTRAGED.  I can't remember what it was and I'm too tired to try.  Pretend it was pithy!))


matt_doyle: (Default)

January 2014



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